BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets surged Friday, boosted by a highly anticipated European plan to lower the borrowing costs of debt laden Spain and Italy.
Markets shot higher after the European Central Bank announced it was creating a new bond-buying program under which the bank will buy government bonds with maturities of one to three years. There will be no limits to the amount of purchases it can make.
The program — the ECB's most ambitious yet in efforts to halt Europe's financial crisis — is intended to keep the short-term borrowing rates of countries such as Italy and Spain at manageable levels, giving them time to enact debt reduction measures and economic reforms.
Large-scale purchases of short-term government bonds by the ECB are expected to drive prices up while pushing down their interest rates, making it less expensive for financially strapped countries to borrow.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index surged 2 percent to 8,850.49. Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 2.4 percent to 19,663.92 and South Korea's Kospi bolted up 2.4 percent to 1,926.42. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent to 4,322.30. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, New Zealand and Thailand also rose.
Mainland Chinese shares soared. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index jumped 4.2 percent to 2,138.02 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index added 4.2 percent to 895.27.
Wall Street surged Thursday after the plan was announced. The Standard & Poor's 500 index soared to its highest level since January 2008, and the Dow Jones industrial average hit its highest mark since December 2007.
"Hong Kong market is in a very good mood today because of the rally from the Wall Street which is triggered by the ECB new unlimited bond purchasing program announced last night," said Jackson Wong, vice president of Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.
"Now investors are getting more confidence that the ECB might be able to handle the current situation again. The euro went up above $1.26 and the ten-year bond yield of Italy and Spain went down significantly."
Spain's interest rate on its 10-year bond was down 0.3 percentage points at 6.12 percent after the ECB announcement. Italy's 10-year rate was down 0.1 percentage points at 5.33 percent.
And in an encouraging sign for the American job market, a report from the payroll processor ADP said Thursday that businesses added 201,000 jobs last month, the most reported by the survey since March.
Separately, the Labor Department said the number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell by 12,000 last week to 365,000. That figure won't affect the August jobs report, due out Friday, but could be a sign of better hiring this month.
Japan's powerhouse export sector — with many companies heavily dependent on European sales — enjoyed strong gains. Honda Motor Corp. rose 4.4 percent, and Toshiba Corp. jumped 6 percent. Heavy equipment maker Komatsu Ltd. added 4.9 percent.
Gains in South Korea, meanwhile, were driven by tech shares. Samsung Electronics Co. rose 4.4 percent and LG Electronics added 2.7 percent. SK Hynix Inc. soared 7.7 percent.
Chinese property shares soared. Hong Kong-listed Evergrande Real Estate Group surged 7.1 percent and Shanghai-listed Poly Real Estate was 6.6 percent higher.
Benchmark oil for October delivery was down 63 cents to $94.90 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 17 cents to finish at $95.53.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2635 from $1.2643 late Thursday in New York. The dollar fell to 78.92 yen from 78.95 yen.
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